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Alberta claims 25th Brier title in dramatic fashion

It took a cold out-turn draw to a piece of the button in an extra end for Kevin Koe to win Alberta’s 25th Brier title, 6-5 over Ontario’s Glenn Howard.

Kevin Koe's Alberta Team holding the Brier Tankard at the 2010 Tim Hortons Brier in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

Indeed, it was a spine-tingling finish to a classic Tim Hortons Brier championship final on Sunday night at the Metro Centre that proved dreamlike for the winner and totally devastating for the previously unbeaten Howard, who has now lost three of the last five Brier finals and suffered six career Brier-final disappointments.

“It’s awesome for this team,” said the joyful and victorious Koe at the finish. “It took us a long time to get to the Brier, and then to win the first one and to beat Glenn Howard in the bargain. This team had never before beaten Glenn’s team.”

Koe, who had third Blake MacDonald operating at 91 per cent efficiency, credited his sweepers Carter Rycroft and Nolan Thiessen for the last button shot to neutralize three Ontario counters in the rings.

“It was a great team effort,” he said. “People don’t realize how much pressure there was on the sweepers there. I just wanted to make sure I wasn’t heavy and give them a chance, and they swept it beautifully.

“A draw to the button to win the Brier is pretty special. We’re better known as bangers and for me to come through to hit the button, that’s pretty memorable.”

Koe was a picture of confidence during the final exchange, mentioning several times he just wanted an open button.

“I liked my chances, you know? I had good draw weight all week and I just wanted to throw that shot.”

Koe bailed his team out of a dangerous jam in the 10th end with Ontario angling for a winning deuce with hammer and Alberta in front by one. With Howard counting the necessary pair, Koe executed a brilliant last-rock hit-and-roll shot that eliminated Ontario’s first counter and spun across the rings to rest behind cover in front of the second enemy stone.

That forced Howard to draw for a tying single and take his chances attempting to steal in the extra frame.

“We were lucky to have a shot to get out of that 10th end,” said Koe. “It was a tough one but we made it.”

Howard, who earlier lost the Tim Hortons Olympic trials final to Martin and also lost the last Olympic-year Brier final to Jean-Michel Menard of Quebec, fought bravely to mask his disappointment.

“I can’t describe it,” he said. “It’s (bleep). You know, we had a tough loss in Edmonton and then to come back and have a tough one here after winning them all, I can’t describe it. I’m just not a happy camper right now.”

Did he feel jinxed? By Olympic years, or Alberta curlers, or Alberta skips named Kevin or Brier finals?

“Yeah. I don’t know. It’s just not a great feeling,” he said. “We had one bad end, it still looked like we were going to come back. Damn! We left it all out on the ice. We played phenomenal, we had a great game, and Kevin made a couple of great, great, unbelievable shots — a great one in 10 and, obviously, a great last one in 11.”

He said Koe’s last shot of the 10th “probably took it away from us. If my (first-rock) draw curls a couple more inches I probably wouldn’t have had to throw my last one. It didn’t curl those two inches and Kevin threw a great last shot that rolled right into the pocket and I had nothing but the draw for one.”

Koe flashed in the first end and Howard was afforded an easy draw for an opening pair. A raise-double in the second from Ontario third Richard Hart led to a blank end but Alberta was forced to take one in the third. Howard blanked the fourth and was forced to hit and stick for one and a 3-1 lead at the half.

The Westerners finagled control in the sixth, hiding two counters behind a corner guard. Combined with a perfect freeze from Koe on first rock, the Alberta skip had an open draw for three with his last stone.

After a blank seventh, Howard bailed out of a jam with a triple-kill in the eighth but settled for a tying single. Koe then stuck for a go-ahead point in the ninth.

“It’s great to get out of a tough province like Alberta,” summed up Koe, “and then follow up to great teams like Kevin Martin and Randy Ferbey and win the Brier.”

Alberta’s 25th win ranks only one behind Manitoba’s 26 win total. The Alberta squad will represent Canada at the Capital One world men’s championship April 3-11 at Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy. Additionally, the team earned a berth in the 2010 Canada Cup at Medicine Hat and the 2011 World Financial Group Continental Cup at St. Albert.

Koe was named Hec Gervais playoff MVP for his efforts. Shot-of-the-week honours went to Hart, who threw a spectacular sixth-end takeout through a seemingly impossible port in the Page One-Two playoff on Friday night against Northern Ontario.

The Koe and Howard teams each won $40,000 (TV value for crest exposure) while the Jacobs team earned $30,000 and fourth finishing Brad Gushue of Newfoundland/Labrador pocketed $20,000.